Imagine a slow leak under the kitchen sink, with a small pool of water collecting with each drip, drip, drip. The problem with a leak under the sink, of course, is that it often goes unseen. Because the leak isn’t in an obvious part of the house for everyone to see, the little pool of water gradually morphs into a major problem. In a similar way, sex – or lack of it – can become a problem in a relationship. At first, the frequency becomes less and less until one day, the couple stops and realizes just how long it’s been since they’ve been intimate.
In some couples, one member of the couple notices more than the other that the sex has stopped. In other relationships, however, both partners grow detached and emotionally disconnected, and neither wants to acknowledge the problem the lack of sex has become. Do couples have to have sex to be happy? No, but provided that the couple is young and healthy, it is normal for couples to occasionally engage in some type of sexual behavior. When the sex stops, it usually stops for a few basic reasons.
Reason #1: Resentment
Pop quiz: What’s the difference between anger and resentment? The former is a feeling you have in response to an upsetting situation; the latter is accumulated anger over a period of time. Resentment is probably the one element that can erode a relationship more effectively than any other, because it causes one to see the other person as an opponent or enemy rather than a friend or ally. Just imagine having sex with an enemy. Unthinkable, right? It would never happen, which is why sex often stops in relationships where one or both members of the couple has a high level of resentment towards the other.
Reason #2: Boredom or Depression
If the sex has stopped, it may be because one or both members of the couple feel bored or depressed. In terms of boredom, it may stem from feeling stagnant in any of the following areas of life: relationship, career, or social life. Often couples get into set patterns to the point that the spontaneity and excitement goes away.
In terms of depression, it’s critical to understand that the depressed person will rarely voluntarily declare, “I am depressed and need a little help.” In particular, I find that depressed men are far less likely to open up about their depression than women. It can manifest as irritability, too much or too little sleeping, too much or too little eating, withdrawing from friends, and isolating within the home. Rarely will a depressed person feel sexual; the idea of sex sounds too intimate and draining, and that’s a problem when the depressed person already has little energy to spread around.
Reason #3: Exhaustion
Never underestimate how fatigue can impact your sex life. There are many reasons a person may be especially tired, though some of the main reasons include the following: taking care of an infant or young child, working and going to school at the same time, working at a job where you stand or move a lot, having trouble sleeping, and so on. A lot of times, women who have partners who are strong, solid men often have a hard time believing that a strong man could really be so tired that he’d turn down sex. Well, ladies, believe it! Many men feel exhausted but don’t feel comfortable expressing vulnerability and telling their partner just how exhausted they are. For some men, to admit exhaustion would be to admit weakness, distorted as that is.
Reason #4: Losing Interest
This reason, I find, is the one a lot of people are most afraid of when their partner stops wanting to have sex. She’s not attracted to me anymore or I just don’t think he likes me anymore are common versions of the feeling. How can you tell when this is the reason, as opposed to one or a mix of the others? Look at the individual’s overall daily lifestyle, including work habits, social life, exercise schedule, and mood. If he or she is happily and successfully swimming through most parts of their life but simultaneously seem to have little interest in sex with you, it’s very possible that the problem is detachment due to losing interest.
I always tell couples not to worry too much when the sex stops. Sure, you need to figure out the reason and start discussing it together, but it’s not something anyone should panic about or blow out of proportion. The most important takeaway when it comes to the sex stopping in a relationship is to learn to accept that a long-term relationship has cycles, and that sex disappearing is actually a fairly natural trend that occurs at least a few – or few hundred?! – times over the course of the relationship.
Learn more about Dr. Seth Meyers and his book Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.